Excerpts from Rabbi David’s Rosh Hashanah Morning Sermon
(Rabbi David’s Disclaimer: This does not refer to any particular person, group or association. It is a general statement.)
According to the Bible there were close to a million soldiers that served in King David's army. By comparison 1,000 years later, the great Roman empire in its heyday had a similar amount of soldiers divided into 30 legions.
When the Jewish nation split into two kingdoms, Judea and Israel, the huge army split as well. It was then that the Israelites lost their unity. They lost their might. In the following centuries during endless wars with their neighbors, Judea and Israel each lost territory and population. This division, lack of unity and hostility between Judea and Israel continued until they were both eventually destroyed.
In the first century when Judea revolted again Rome, there were a bit less then 300,000 Jewish soldiers facing 350,000 Roman soldiers. If you play a pure numbers game the odds of winning was not necessarily with Rome. The Jewish revolt failed not because of an inferior number of Jewish warriors but again because of lack of unity. Due to the animosity between Jewish groups, they could not find a way to work together against a common enemy.
There is a famous Talmudic story about a wealthy man in Judea who had a party and wanted to invited his good friend Kamtzah. By mistake, the wealthy man's personal enemy named Bar Kamtzah was invited instead. When the wealthy man saw his enemy, he demanded that Bar Kamtzah leave his house immediately.
Bar Kamtzah asked the wealthy man not to embarrass him in front of the entire village and to invite him as well. The wealthy man refused. Bar Kamtzah then offered to pay for whatever he would be eating at the party if he would be allowed to stay. The wealthy man still refused. Bar Kamtzah then offered to pay for the food for everyone in the celebration which was the entire village, in order not be embarrassed. Still, the wealthy man refused and demanded that Bar Kamtzah leave the premises immediately.
The rabbis who were present at the party did not come to his defense and were silent throughout this whole episode. In his Anger, Bar Kamtzah went to the Roman emperor and told him that the Jews intended to rebel against him. The emperor in his anger attacked Judea and destroyed the temple.
According to our tradition, the Temple was destroyed and our ancestors were chased out of our land because of this incident. Because of senseless animosity between brothers…
I realize of course that hate is a very harsh word to use. It is one of the most destructive powers in society. It is what brings out the worst in us. It robs us of our clear thinking, our ability to reason. It takes away our humanity, our dignity. It has the power to literally change our personality, to bring people to violence.
There is a fine line between opinions which are kept as civil disagreements and those differences which breed hostility, that completely take over and create intolerance.
In the story of Bar Kamtzah and the wealthy man, what made G-D so upset was that this dispute was senseless. It caused humiliation and dishonor. It is known in Judaism as Sinaat Chinam, which translates as pointless hate.
We have all seen on TV and social media people saying malicious things about others. From the top echelon to the rest of us. Many seem to be consumed by this affliction of attacking others.
Have we lost our will to build a bridge between political opinions and ideologies? When principles and ideologies become very emotional we defend them to the end. We know we are right and anyone who does not share our opinion cannot be right.
As we go through our political unrest, people seem to dig their heels into their positions and like a snow ball, our differences lead to even stronger discontent and intolerance. Emotions take over and paralyze our ability to work together for solutions.
I have never seen any political or social debate where one side manages to convince the other side to change their position. The debates just go on and on... with bitterness and high emotions everywhere.
Political debates are healthy and good. It is a sign of diversity. It is sign of a free nation. But disagreements should not be allowed to escalate into rifts and chaos.
Building a bridge of understanding must start by all of us reexamining the idea that one's political views are completely correct and others’ opinions are completely wrong. We must try to find some common political ground.
We have always taken pride in our diversity. Different ideas and ideologies lead to healthy debates among us. Working together despite opposing opinions unite us. It makes us stronger.
We need this unity. In today’s world we simply cannot afford to appear as a divided nation. This weakens us in the eyes of those who are trying to hurt us. Divided we are in danger.
We have already seen how this intolerance has come into the fabric of our personal lives. It has torn apart families, hindered friendships, brought brother against brother. It is even hurting our freedom of speech. People are afraid to express themselves on social media or among family and close friends for the sake of not fighting.
We are all concerned with our national and personal safety, and prosperity for all. We all want to preserve our strength and respect among all nations. We don't have to agree with each other but we have to work together. Being united means a stronger America which means a safer world.
Senseless hate, whether politically or socially based or otherwise, is not an option for us anymore. There are no winners, we all lose.
We can do better.
Remember that whatever our children learn from us they may continue doing as adults and as future leaders of our nation.
From the top of the leadership echelon to every single one of us, let us change all this. Let us resolve that this coming year we will not be a part of all this negativity. This ray of hope and unity has to start somewhere. Let it start from us, today.
For this coming year I pray that we curtail all inappropriate verbal expressions due to political or ideological disagreements or for that matter, any disagreement.
In honor of the New Year.
For the sake of generations to come…
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